Remarks by Senator the Honorable Maxine McClean

On the Occasion of

45 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Cuba and Barbados

November 27, 2017

 

 

Your Excellency Francisco Fernández Peña, Ambassador of Cuba,

Dr.  José Balaguer, Member of the Cuban Communist Party,

Your Excellency, Francisco Fernández Peña

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Members of the Cuban Community, 

Distinguished Guests,

 

I thank His Excellency Ambassador Fernández Peña for hosting a reception to commemorate forty-five years of diplomatic relations between the Governments of Barbados and Cuba. I am honoured to deliver remarks on behalf of the Government of Barbados on this auspicious occasion. 

 

Forty-five years ago, on December 8, 1972 our first Prime Minister, the Right Excellent Errol Barrow and his fellow leaders Forbes Burnham of Guyana, Michael Manley of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago’s Eric Williams took the joint decision to establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba. Against a background of an aggressive, isolationist policy that prevailed in the region, these bold men chose to exercise the sovereignty of their new nations and give formal recognition to the already existing profound historic and cultural ties that inextricably bound to the sister island of Cuba.  For Barbados the decision was entirely consistent with a core principle of Barbados foreign policy - that Barbados will be friends of all and satellites of none.’

The courageous and significant assertion of statehood strengthened the individual and collective friendships of the four visionary leaders of the former British colonies with late Fidel Castro. It also established the enduring, vibrant, strong political ties and the fruitful, substantive collaboration that we continue to enjoy with Cuba and which we commemorate today.

We are pleased that all fourteen Member States of the Caribbean Community now have a diplomatic presence in Havana. Indeed, let me take this opportunity to announce that Cuba has granted Agrément to Barbados’ request for, Ms. Donna Forde to serve as Barbados’ first resident Ambassador to Cuba.

Earlier this month, my colleague, the Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, the Honorable Donville Inniss, led a delegation of Barbadian businesses to Havana to participate in Cuba’s annual International Trade Fair (FIHAV). We are anxious to see a consolidation of previous efforts and more tangible outcomes from this and previous engagements as well as earlier partnerships already forged.

 At a time when it was ill-advised to do so, Barbados was one of the first countries to sign a Double Taxation Agreement and a Bilateral Investment Treaty with Cuba. The Barbados private sector continues to display a strong desire for commercial exchanges with Cuba and individual businesses are anxious to see their efforts materialize.   We are convinced that it will be in our collective interests if the strong and immutable Barbados and Cuba relationship can continue to move beyond political solidarity to active and buoyant commercial exchanges.

We look forward to further collaboration that reflects the developments and needs of our respective economies.   I am happy to say that in an effort to strengthen cooperation and exchanges to the mutual benefit of our countries the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation is finalizing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education.

I am pleased to share with you that one Barbadian school, Praise Academy, has already taken the initiative of contracting through our Embassy in Cuba, a Cuban teacher of ballet.   We applaud Praise Academy Barbados and its founder, Mrs. Marcia Weekes for exposing this classical discipline to wider sectors of the Barbadian community.   Perhaps with this exposure we will discover a dancer with the talent of the highly acclaimed Alicia Alonso or Carlos Acosta!  We are optimistic that the increased cultural collaboration will provide the positive benefits that have accrued to our sporting disciplines from the continued contractual arrangements between the National Sports Council of Barbados and Cuba Deportes. (pronounced Day-Poor-Tase)

Barbados continues to admire the resilience and organizational skills of the Cuban people.  We applaud the efforts of the Cuban Government in its preparation for and management of natural disasters.  Cuba, although seriously affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, suffered minimal loss of life and avoided some of the serious damage which wreaked havoc on other Caribbean Islands.  It is also reflective of the Cuban Spirit and its traditional generosity that even in the midst of its own adversity Cuba quickly mobilized Medical teams, other personnel and supplies to assist the afflicted in Barbuda and Dominica.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Prime Minister, Right Honourable Freundel Stuart will lead the Barbados Delegation to the Sixth CARICOM-Cuba Summit in St. John’s Antigua and Barbuda next week.  Barbados looks forward to this opportunity to review and concretize our shared goals, achievements and commitments. Barbados can attest to an enriching and mutually beneficial 45 years of political engagement with Cuba!  Even with the economic and other challenges which confront us we are confident in the strength and continued promise of Barbados-Cuba relations!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you!